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PULP Bookstore & Gallery opens with ‘Shocked & Amazed: Vintage Photographs’

  • Image of pin-up Bettie Page from “Shocked & Amazed: Vintage Photographs” at PULP Bookstore & Gallery.
  • Image from “Shocked & Amazed: Vintage Photographs” at PULP Bookstore & Gallery.
  • Image from “Shocked & Amazed: Vintage Photographs” at PULP Bookstore & Gallery.

PULP Bookstore & Gallery opens with ‘Shocked & Amazed: Vintage Photographs’

15 May 2017

“My aesthetic is anything that fascinates or offends,” laughs Will Eiseman as he riffles through an assortment of vintage photographs from his collection that will be displayed at the opening of his PULP Bookstore & Gallery on May 18.

The show, titled “Shocked & Amazed,” will be comprised of a cross-section of Eiseman’s photo collection, including everything from true crime photos and medical oddities to circus sideshow performers and “a rare pictorial tribute to ’50s pin-up icon Bettie Page.”

The show is definitely not for the faint of heart and represents Eiseman’s first salvo across the ramparts of mediocrity for Savannah’s connoisseurs of the odd.

“I like to change it up,” Eiseman says. “That’s my thing. There are people who adapt to their environment and there are people who make the environment adapt to them, and I’m definitely the latter. I like stirring the pot. That’s part of the fun for me.”

Eiseman could have ended up basically anywhere, but he ended up here in Savannah after a brief stint in Charleston with a similar concept (also called PULP Bookstore & Gallery). After a year of operation, he had to close his doors due to astronomical lease increases, but Charleston’s loss is Savannah’s gain. Eiseman may traffic in fringe oddities, but he’s exceedingly well connected and has a discerning eye that can distinguish the good trash from the bad trash.

Before moving to Charleston, Eiseman’s peripatetic lifestyle took him all over the world. In the ’80s, he says he won “a bunch of money” on the TV game show “Scrabble,” hosted by Chuck Woolery, which enabled him to globe trot for a considerable amount of time. He’s since had galleries and bookstores in Australia (where he still owns a home), New Zealand, Amsterdam, Los Angeles and of course, Charleston. Over the years his collection has grown to include works from everyone from Robert Crumb, Shepard Fairey, Banksy and Kurt Vonnegut to the crime photographer Weegee, David Lynch, Daniel Johnston, Raymond Pettibon and on and on.

All along the way, Eiseman has enjoyed his role as provocateur, but he’s not trying to be offensive for the sake of being offensive. His taste simply doesn’t jibe with the mundane imagery of flowers and fluffy things that seem to pervade so many innocuous tourist galleries, something he was escaping when he left Charleston.

“It’s not weird; it’s just not conventional,” Eiseman explains. “I don’t want to do the same old … I like to have fun with this. Art doesn’t have to be this deadly serious, somber thing. It can be fun. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be the things that you think it would be.”

PULP Bookstore & Gallery will include avant-garde art books you won’t find at chain stores (all books are new, nothing used). It will also feature T-shirts and prints from artists like Robert Crumb and Shepard Fairey, obscure movie posters, vernacular photography, artist zines and an assortment of finely curated esoterica that will rotate in and out periodically.

Eiseman is poised to be a real shot in the arm for the Savannah art scene. He also has designs of building a black box theater, something Savannah sorely needs now.

And though Eiseman still maintains retail spaces in Los Angeles and Australia, he needs sustainable profits here in Savannah to survive, so go see “Shocked & Amazed” and consider buying something to support this subversive artistic cause. And tell others to do the same. Store hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Help keep Savannah weird!


What: “Shocked & Amazed: Vintage Photographs”

When: 6-10 p.m. May 18; exhibit on display through July 9

Where: PULP Bookstore & Gallery, 412 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Cost: Free